The production company behind Fast and Furious 9 has been ordered to pay substantial penalties after a stuntman suffered traumatic head injuries from an improperly setup 26-foot balcony fall during shooting. The near-fatal accident reflected inadequate safety precautions that should safeguard performers undertaking extreme action sequences.
In July 2019 at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden in the UK, stuntman Joe Watts was rehearsing a second-story balcony throw scene when his safety wire shockingly detached, sending him crashing onto concrete without protection. Watts suffered a fractured skull and lasting brain damage from the devastating impact.
Investigators concluded the high-risk stunt’s Wire had not undergone mandatory re-checks after earlier successful takes to confirm full secure engagement. Moreover, an insufficiently small crash mat failed to cover the concrete floor in case of mishaps. Watts narrowly escaped death thanks only to prompt medical care.
UK workplace safety regulators found production firm FF9 Pictures, involved with shooting Fast and Furious 9 (titled F9: The Fast Saga), liable for flagrant safety breaches seriously injuring Watts. By overlooking easily addressable dangers, the company displayed negligence deserving stiff fiscal penalties.
Authorities emphasized Wright’s terrible outcome stemmed from “foreseeable risks” within stunt coordination and hazardous environment mitigation fully controllable by FF9 Pictures through basic, mandated precautions alarmingly disregarded. The seven-figure fine aimed at preventing similar unacceptable corner-cutting endangering performers.
Heartbreakingly, prosecutors declared Watts “lucky to be alive at all” following the entirely preventable, life-changing behind-the-scenes disaster. Watts spent grueling years recovering from immense head trauma impacting mobility and mental faculties.
Meanwhile, FF9 Pictures delayed reasonable settlement talks despite the Fast and Furious franchise’s $5 billion box office haul, signaling no financial constraints. The studio only agreed to appropriate damages once lawsuits formally commenced three years later—a disappointing response, per critics.
Beyond Watts’ painful saga, the disturbing incident highlighted ongoing industry issues around production companies inadequately protecting stunt workers facing routine physical harm—including death—executing practical effects spectacles that thrill moviegoers.
Despite outsized profits, critics argue studios systematically fail to uphold ethical obligations, shielding performers from unnecessary injuries through reasonable caution measures. Especially on big-budget blockbusters like Fast and Furious films, critics demand more stunt coordinator accountability and safety protocols shielding daredevils daily, placing bodies at risk and driving lucrative box office revenues.
Watts’ settlement constituted a small fraction of F9’s near $800 million total earnings. But the steep fine registers symbolic condemnation of profit-chasing impulses risking lives—even if still inadequate deterrence for cash-rich major studios.
Hopefully the penalty and public scrutiny over Watts’ heartbreaking misfortune spur sustained pressure demanding Hollywood decisively prioritize human welfare over financial returns before the next preventable accident.